Washington Times

U.S. secrets aboard latest Chinese sub

By Bill Gertz

Washington, December 6, 1999

China is beginning work on a new strategic submarine that will be targeted against U.S. nuclear forces and carry missiles with small warheads similar to American weapons, The Washington Times has learned.

The People's Liberation Army Navy will start construction in the next several weeks on its first Type 094 missile submarine, according to Pentagon and other administration officials with access to intelligence reports.

Preparations for the construction were detected by U.S. spy agencies and reported to senior Pentagon officials late last month. The submarine will carry a smaller underwater variant of China's new DF-31 -- Continued from Front Page -- intercontinental ballistic missile, which was flight-tested in August.

The JL-2 submarine-launched missile to be deployed on the Type 094 and the DF-31 are the first strategic systems that will contain stolen U.S. warhead and missile secrets, the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Times.

That view contradicts claims of other administration officials who believe there is no evidence so far that Chinese strategic weapons will be copied from U.S. systems.

According to the intelligence officials, the new Type 094 is being built to provide "a strategic deterrent" to the United States. Both the JL-2 and the first Type 094 are expected to be deployed around 2005 or 2006. The JL-2 also is known as the Julang-2 and will have a range of about 7,400 miles. Julang means Great Wave in Chinese.

"These missiles will be able to hit any place in the United States, not just the Western states," said one official. "That's a significant new capability." The Type 094 will carry 12 or 16 JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles that were described in one intelligence report as a smaller version of the DF-31.

U.S. intelligence agencies in mid-November also spotted a Chinese Golf-class missile submarine that is being used as a test bed for the JL-2. The submarine sailed from Zhenjiang to Lushung. The transit was a sign the Chinese are preparing for the first sea-launch test of the JL-2.

The missile also is expected by Pentagon officials to carry China's newest small warhead that is believed to be copied from the U.S. W-88 warhead deployed on U.S. Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

China obtained design information on the W-88 warhead in the 1980s and a Chinese official disclosed the loss to the CIA in 1995. An investigation of the warhead compromise is focused on Wen Ho Lee, a computer scientist who was dismissed from his job at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and who is suspected of passing warhead secrets to China. He has denied the charge.

According to a congressional report on Chinese technology theft released earlier this year, the new Type 094 submarine will provide the People's Republic of China (PRC) with new strategic nuclear capabilities that will increase the threat to the United States.

The report by the special panel headed by Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, stated that the JL-2's 7,400-mile range allows it "to be launched from the PRC's territorial waters and to strike targets throughout the United States." "This range will allow a significant change in the operation and tactics of the PRC's nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines," the report, based on classified intelligence reports, stated.

"Instead of venturing into the open ocean to attack the United States, the Type 094-class submarines could remain near PRC waters, protected by the PLA Navy and Air Force."

The Cox committee report also said the submarines are part of a new Chinese nuclear strategy of developing weapons that are more "survivable" against U.S. nuclear missiles. The submarines provide such survivability because they are hard to detect. China has deployed one Xia-class nuclear missile submarine but defense officials said it rarely leaves ports and appears to be in disrepair.

The Type 094 will replace that Xia-class submarine and provide much more advanced capabilities than a second Xia submarine still under construction.

In addition to the new missile submarines, China also is building a new attack submarine known as the Type O93 that will be equipped with underwater-fired cruise missiles.

Defense officials said U.S. intelligence agencies based their assessment of the new submarine on sensitive intelligence gathered from U.S. spy satellites. The Pentagon is closely watching China's strategic nuclear force buildup, they said.

The trade publication Jane's Defense Weekly reported in August that China had begun construction of a new nuclear-powered submarine at the Huludao shipyard on the Bohai Gulf northeast of Beijing. The magazine said it is not known if it is the new missile submarine or the first of China's new class of attack submarines.

The intelligence report last week stated that China already is building the first of its new attack submarines -- Type 093 -- and is in the process of completing construction of the last Xia-class missile submarine. The new Xia submarine is being modified so it can launch the new longer-range JL-2s. Those submarines currently carry shorter-range missiles than the JL-2.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said in April that stolen U.S. nuclear warhead secrets will be built into new Chinese missiles in a "matter of years." The official said some W-88 warhead data obtained by the Chinese "could only have been obtained from espionage."

The senior intelligence official said that the stolen U.S. nuclear data means "future Chinese weapons will look more like ours." The official spoke to reporters on the outcome of a classified CIA damage assessment of Chinese nuclear spying.

However, retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger, the new security chief at the Energy Department, told reporters Wednesday "the jury is still out" on whether China's new strategic weapons will contain stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets. The retired general was formerly the U.S. Strategic Command leader and has disagreed in the past with CIA estimates.

The Chinese submarine missile development highlights the need for deploying a national missile defense, said a congressional defense specialist. "This is evidence that China is moving rapidly toward the deployment of a modern, survivable long-range missile force at a time when it faces no threat whatsoever," the aide said.

Pentagon and State Department spokesmen in the past have dismissed China's strategic nuclear weapons development as non-threatening and a normal process of military modernization.

In addition to stolen U.S. technology, the new missile submarine also is expected to contain technology provided by Russia, including advanced nuclear reactors and special propellers that will make the submarines harder to detect underwater.